Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) clones Hitler 95 times, and hopes to raise the resulting boys in Brazil, giving them childhoods identical to Hitlers. His ultimate plan is to create a band of Nazi leaders that can continue where Hitler left off, forming the Fourth Reich. Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), a Nazi hunter, learns of the plan and is determined to thwart it. When the two meet face-to-face in the home of one of the Hitler clones, it is up to the boy to choose who he will assist.
The Boys from Brazil is a 1978 British-American thriller film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It stars Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier and features James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Denholm Elliott, and Steve Guttenberg in supporting roles. The screenplay by Heywood Gould is based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin.
The film was produced by Martin Richards and Stanley OToole with Robert Fryer as executive producer. The music score was by Jerry Goldsmith and the cinematography by Henri Decae. It was produced through Sir Lew Grades ITC Entertainment and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was nominated for three Academy Awards.
The film was shot on location in Austria, England, Portugal, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was Schaffners second sci-fi film, appearing ten years after Planet of the Apes.
Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman discovers a sinister and bizarre plot to rekindle the Third Reich.
Young, well-intentioned Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) stumbles upon a secret organization of Third Reich war criminals holding clandestine meetings in Paraguay and finds that Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck), the infamous Auschwitz doctor, is with them. He phones Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), an aging Nazi hunter living in Vienna, Austria, with this information. A highly skeptical Lieberman tries to brush Kohlers claims aside, telling him that it is already well known that Mengele is living in Paraguay.
Having learned when and where the next meeting to include Mengele is scheduled to occur, Kohler records part of it using a hidden microphone, but is discovered and killed while making another phone call to Lieberman. Before the phone is hung up with Lieberman on the other end, he hears the recorded voice of Mengele ordering a group of ex-Nazis to kill 94 men in different countries, including Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Great Britain and the United States.
Although frail, Lieberman follows Kohlers leads and begins travelling throughout Europe and North America to investigate the suspicious deaths of a number of aging civil servants. He meets several of their widows and is amazed to find an uncanny resemblance in their adopted, black-haired, blue-eyed sons. It is also made clear that, at the time of their deaths, all the civil servants were aged around 65 and had cold, domineering and abusive attitudes towards their adopted sons, while their wives were around 42 and doted on the sons.
Lieberman gains insight from Frieda Maloney (Uta Hagen), an incarcerated former Nazi guard who worked with the adoption agency, before realizing during a meeting with Professor Bruckner (Bruno Ganz), an expert on cloning, the terrible truth behind the Nazi plan: Mengele, in the 1960s, had secluded several surrogate mothers in a Brazilian clinic and fertilised them with ova each carrying a sample of Hitlers DNA preserved since World War II. Ninety four perfect clones of Hitler had then been born and sent to different parts of the world for adoption.
As Lieberman uncovers more of the plot, Mengeles superiors become more unnerved. After Mengele happens to meet (and then attacks) one of the agents he believes is in Europe implementing his scheme, Mengeles principal contact, Eduard Seibert (James Mason), informs him that the scheme has been aborted before Lieberman can expose it to the authorities. Mengele storms out, pledging that the operation will continue.
Seibert and his men destroy Mengeles jungle estate after killing his guards and servants. Mengele himself, however, has already left, intent on trying to continue his plan. He travels to rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where one of the Hitler clones, Bobby Wheelock (Jeremy Black), lives on a farm with his parents. There he murders the boys father (John Dehner), a Doberman dog breeder, and waits for Lieberman, who is on his way to the farm to warn Mr. Wheelock of Mengeles intention to kill him.
The instant Lieberman arrives and sees Mengele, he attacks the doctor in a fury. Mengele gains the upper hand and shoots Lieberman. He taunts Lieberman by explaining his plan to return Hitler to the world. Then, with one desperate lunge, Lieberman opens the closet where the Dobermans are held and turns them loose. The dogs corner Mengele and attack him. Bobby arrives home from school and, despite telling from the carnage that something is wrong, calls off the dogs and tries to find out what has happened.
The injured Mengele, having now encountered one of his clones for the first time, tells Bobby how much he admires him, and explains that he is cloned from Hitler. Bobby doubts his story, and is also suspicious of Mengele because the dogs are trained to attack anyone who threatens his family. Lieberman tells Bobby that Mengele has killed his father and urges him to notify the police. Bobby checks the house and finds his dead father in the basement. He rushes back upstairs and sets the vicious dogs on Mengele once again, coldly relishing his bloody death. Bobby then helps Lieberman, but only after Lieberman promises not to tell the police about the incident.
Later, while recovering from his wounds, Lieberman is encouraged by an American Nazi-hunter, David Bennett (John Rubinstein) to expose Mengeles scheme to the world. He asks Lieberman to turn over the list (which Lieberman had taken from Mengeles body while Bobby was calling for an ambulance) identifying the names and whereabouts of the other boys from around the world, so that they can be systematically killed before growing up to become bloody tyrants. Lieberman objects on the grounds that they are mere children, and he burns the list before anyone can read it.Gregory Peck as Dr. Josef Mengele
Laurence Olivier as Ezra Lieberman
James Mason as Eduard Seibert
Lilli Palmer as Esther Lieberman
Uta Hagen as Frieda Maloney
Steve Guttenberg as Barry Kohler
Denholm Elliott as Sidney Beynon
Rosemary Harris as Frau Doring
John Dehner as Henry Wheelock
John Rubinstein as David Bennett
Anne Meara as Mrs. Curry
Jeremy Black as Jack Curry, Jr. / Simon Harrington / Erich Doring / Bobby Wheelock
Bruno Ganz as Dr. Bruckner
Walter Gotell as Mundt
David Hurst as Strasser
Wolfgang Preiss as Lofquist
Michael Gough as Mr. Harrington
Joachim Hansen as Fassler
Sky du Mont as Hessen
Carl Duering as Trausteiner
Linda Hayden as Nancy
Richard Marner as Doring
Georg Marischka as Gunther
Gunter Meisner as Farnbach
Prunella Scales as Mrs. Harrington
Wolf Kahler as Schwimmer
The altercation between Lieberman and Mengele took about three or four days to film due to Oliviers ailing health at the time. Peck recalled that he and Olivier "were lying around on the floor" laughing at the absurdity of having to film such a fight scene at their advanced ages.
The film had 25 minutes cut when released in West Germany, theatrical as well as all subsequent TV, video and some DVD releases. In 1999 and 2009 the film was released uncut on DVD in the U.S. and uncut in Germany on its DVDs.
An end segment with Bobby in a darkroom was added to some versions in later years.
Lew Grade who partly financed the movie was not happy with the end result, feeling that the ending was too gory. He says he protested but Franklin Shaffner, who had final cut rights, overruled him.
In 2015, the Shout! Factory released the film on Blu Ray.
Academy Awards Nominations
Academy Award for Best Actor - Laurence Olivier
Academy Award for Film Editing - Robert Swink
Academy Award for Original Music Score - Jerry Goldsmith
Golden Globe Awards Nomination
Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama - Gregory Peck
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award Nominations
Best Science Fiction Film
Best Actor - Laurence Olivier
Best Director - Franklin J. Schaffner
Best Music - Jerry Goldsmith
Best Supporting Actress - Uta Hagen
Best Writing - Heywood Gould
Laurence Olivier appears in The Boys from Brazil and Marathon Man. Ira Levin wrote the story for The Boys from Brazil and A Kiss Before Dying. Godsend (2004). The Stepford Children (1987). Georg Marischka and others appear in The Boys from Brazil and The Odessa File.